Photo by James Oluoch-Olunya via www.combat-bjj.com
This is a guest post by T.P. Grant, part of the Bloody Elbow Grappling Coverage Team
In the 2009 ADCC, a young Icelandic grappler, wearing a brand new black belt awarded to him by Renzo Gracie made his debut. Gunnar Nelson had qualified for the 77 kg division at the most prestigious no gi grappling event in the world and fought James Brasco to a stand still but lost a referee decision. After one match, Nelson's ADCC run appeared to be over, but after the finals concluded he was given a second chance with an invite into the Absolute Division.
And Nelson made the most of that second chance. Nelson defeated the much larger and stronger Jeff Monson in the first round and then slapped an rear naked choke on David Avellan in the quarterfinals. In the semis, Nelson faced the legendary Xande Ribeiro and lost via kneebar. Nelson would then lose the Bronze Medal Match to Vinny Magalhaes.
This time around in the ADCCs, Nelson was intent on bringing home some form of hardware. In his weight-class Nelson won his first match on points but then ran into Andre Galvao who defeated Nelson and went on to win the division. Nelson was again given an invite to the Absolute bracket.
Nelson took the back of Bruno Frazzato and while he didn't find a choke he was able to secure the win via points. Then the in the second round, Nelson was re-matched with Xande Ribeiro. This time Nelson was able to stave off the leg lock and go on the offensive. At one point in the match Nelson had a tight guillotine and threatened to take Xande's back but in the end Nelson lost on points.
While Nelson leaves Nottingham with no medals, his grappling game has clearly taken a big stride forward and with the ADCCs now concluded he will likely resume his MMA career. Which is fantastic news to MMA fans because Nelson is one of the brightest European prospects.
Nelson currently has an 8-0-1 professional record with 5 (t)KOs and 3 submissions and is currently under contract with BAMMA. He is also featured in Leland Roling's simply awesome prospect rankings.
While his grappling credentials are eye catching, the Icelander started his martial arts career as a striker. In his teens Nelson competed in Goju Ryu Karate and that Karate style is still present in his striking. Nelson uses very in-line footwork and an in-and-out attack similar to that of Lyoto Machida. Nelson's takedowns are quick and once he has an opponent on the ground his top position is punishing.
It has reached a point though where Nelson is having difficulty finding legitimate opponents who are willing to face him under the BAMMA banner. Nelson is just 23-years-old and has time to develop, but at this point in his career leaving the European MMA circuit for a more established North American based promotion like King of the Cage, MFC, Sharkfights or even Bellator or the UFC should be his next step.
While Nelson is still too young and too green for even the mid-levels of the UFC 170 division or the talent in Bellator's Welterweight tournament he is going to need consistent fights moving forward. Being in the U.S. would also expose him to more wrestling based fighters and allow him to work more closely with Renzo Gracie, his BJJ coach. The future is bright for this young man in both grappling and MMA.